Forward Depth, Grit, and Options
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a grueling affair. To compete and win against the league’s elite night after night requires each line to execute their role. If the top two lines gel into the scoring forces they’ve proved they’re capable of being, the Predators may just carry the most lethal top-six the franchise has ever put on postseason ice. But it’s the bottom-six which holds the most intriguing decisions for the Nashville coaching staff.
A slew of rookies have impacted the Predators fortune this season, most of whom gained their opportunity by stepping in for injured veterans. Well, now the veterans are healthy, and Nashville is sitting with a wealth of legitimate bottom six options.
Center Mike Fisher and rookie winger Viktor Arvidsson seem to be the third line mainstays amidst a swirling lineup that has seen even last year’s 20-goal scorer Colin Wilson recently taking a healthy scratch. That being said, Wilson will most likely be lacing up for playoff action, seeing as he notched 5 goals in 6 games last postseason- a threat Nashville would love to see re-emerge from the depths of the lineup.
The fourth line litany of prospects- rookie grinders like Miikka Salomaki, Austin Watson, Colton Sissons, and experienced veterans Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom, and Cody Bass– all have logged their share of ice time. Even Gabriel Bourque is rumored to still play hockey, and in the case of drastic injury it’s worth bringing up the name Kevin Fiala– the Milwaukee Admiral’s leading scorer spent a few games as a Predator top-line winger earlier this season, and even got himself a little taste of playoff experience last year.
The Predators are in an enviable position for an NHL team- they have the ability to address injuries without having to throw an overly green skater onto the ice, effectively limiting any potential drop-off in play. It’ll be interesting to see what combinations Laviolette plays with as we approach the bracket.
Maybe the best reason of all:
Next: The Puck Stops Here